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Author Topic: Henry IV Part 1 Essay 2  (Read 5344 times)  Share 

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Henry IV Part 1 Essay 2
« on: October 01, 2012, 10:00:35 pm »
Hey guys, this is my second untimed essay for Henry IV Part 1.

Word length is approx 1660 words, I'm just wondering which parts of the essay I should remove so that I can reduce the length to 1100-1200 words for the exam? Kinda stumped at which parts would be the least relevant...

In Henry IV Part 1, Shakespeare suggests that the pursuit of honour has its limitations. Discuss.

Set during the political and social unrest that was prevalent in England during the early-15th century, William Shakespeare’s historical play, Henry IV Part 1, is a testament of the shortcomings linked with the pursuit of honour. Hotspur, the play’s ambitious embodiment of duty, stands above the crumbling world of nobility and lawlessness in his desire to “pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon”. Praised by Henry as the “theme of honour’s tongue”, Hotspur interprets honour as a physical prize that is gloriously won on the battlefield in exchange for one’s peace of mind, allowing him to assume the necessary courage and bravery required to achieve it. However, it is this portrayal of honour which Falstaff cynically condemns, as there is an indissoluble link that connects honour with violence, and hence Shakespeare insinuates that in pursuing honour, men deprive themselves of their livelihoods. Moreover, Shakespeare portrays the “hare-brained” Hotspur as being susceptible to human deceit due his inability to rationalise without honour. Therefore, his obsession with such a materialistic ideal limits his military prowess. Yet, the playwright also conveys that the pursuit can be instrumental in cultivating the necessary leadership, bravery, and nobility required for future kings, as demonstrated by Prince Hal, “the shadow of succession”.

Hotspur’s desire to attain honour allows him to firmly entrench himself with the sense of devotion and fearlessness required for a warrior, yet it restrains him from living in a world of peace. His “imaginations of some great exploit” arouse him into welcoming danger and peril in his pursuit of honour, causing him to fantasise about rescuing it from the distant moon or “the bottom of the deep”. Here, Shakespeare portrays our personality as being shaped by our psychological desires, and hence Hotspur develops a hot-headed mentality due to his desire to gain honour at any cost. For Hotspur, honorific recognition can only be obtained through extraordinary feats of courage and “danger”, and that “he that doth redeem her thence might wear…her dignities”. Indeed, he personifies honour as a woman to be gloriously won in a disturbingly violent world of “bloody roses and cracked crowns”, further highlighting his extreme machismo. This also ensures that the audience views Hotspur as a hardened soldier who is entirely committed to his militaristic duties out of passion and love. However, his intense devotion to such “bloody battles” forces him to abandon his quiet domestic life, and he must constantly battle to fulfil the heavy burden that such honour requires of him. His desire for honour has taken away “[his] stomach, pleasure, and [his] golden sleep”, suggesting that such militaristic thoughts render him unable to leave in peace.   This renders him as an unfulfilling husband to Lady Percy, who feels “banished” from his love; Hotspur perceives her as merely a “trifler” – a sideline to his pre-occupation with war. In the same vein, his obsession with war is epitomised when he declares that his horse serves as his “throne”. This imagery further accentuates his irrevocable ties with war, suggesting that Hotspur perceives the battlefield as another home where his presence is gratefully welcome, in contrast to the emotional disturbances he endures in the privacy of his domestic home. Thus, it is Hotspur’s enthusiasm to attain honour and “die merrily” which disconnects him from life’s tranquillity, at the cost of cultivating the qualities needed for success on the battlefield.

While such notions of honour are glorious in nature, Shakespeare also presents it as an empty ideal which ultimately misleads men to pointlessly die. Falstaff’s cynical disdain towards honour’s hollowness arises from the fact that it has no palpable use after death, denouncing it as a “mere scutcheon” that possesses neither sense nor substance. This explicit connection between honour and death implies that it is a completely heraldic device used at funerals, nothing more than a flimsy decoration for the coffins of the dead. Shakespeare insinuates that men, in order to be remembered throughout history, must ultimately be killed during battle in order to achieve both glory and fame, depriving themselves of life’s unlimited gifts. He continues to belittle honour by deriding it as a mere “word”, suggesting that language is skilfully used to obfuscate the brutal reality of war, and to manipulate the population into committing terrible atrocities for the gain of a seemingly altruistic quality. In the same vein, the imagery of transparency in Falstaff’s lines “What is that honour… Air” further highlights the lack of genuine humanity in attaining honour. Falstaff views acquiring it as being hypocritically dishonourable instead; that one must ruthlessly kill others in order to achieve “grinning honour”. This imagery further accentuates Falstaff’s opinion that men are manipulated by cunning superiors who are only concerned with achieving their own self-absorbed political desires. Thus, it is no wonder that Falstaff’s lack of interest in gaining honour allows him to survive in the battlefield, as what seemed to be cowardly “discretion” in the Battle was wise caution instead. Thus, Shakespeare conveys that such materialistic ideals delude men to willingly go to war, and that honour can never be attained due to its paradoxical nature.

Additionally, Shakespeare portrays the dangers of being blinded by glory and honour, as there is a tendency for others to manipulate such people as pawns for their own self-interest. From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare establishes Hotspur as being aggressive and extremely valiant – he unhesitatingly rebels against the divine force of King Henry. Henry’s description of Hotspur as an “infant warrior” illustrates him as being psychologically misguided and implies that he possesses a child-like naivety, making him wildly susceptible to irrational decisions. In the same vein, his tendency to chase after honorific ideals, instead of practically thinking and planning, undermines his capability as a military strategist, with Northumberland calling him a “wasp-stung and impatient fool”. This presents him as being typically liable to rash knee-jerk responses. The “wasp-stung” imagery exemplifies him as being blinded by constant arousals of honour from the dire reality at hand, as we are made aware of his dispositional and intellectual limitations – fundamental flaws which are known to his allies. Worcester decides to not inform Hotspur of Henry’s offer of peaceful reconciliation in order to protect his own welfare. Aware of Hotspur’s impetuous nature, Worcester instead incites Hotspur, who is “governed by a spleen”, into committing his unprepared army for battle after falsely informing him of alleges slurs against his family – provoking him to furiously defend his family’s distinguished name, which ultimately ends in the defeat of his army. Thus, it can be said that Hotspur’s obsession with honour makes him heavily vulnerable to manipulation, contributing to the futile downfall of his army and himself. 

For Shakespeare, it is Hal’s intrinsic desire for honour which ultimately forces the unveiling of his true character. He presents Hal as wanting to redeem himself by cleansing himself of the “shame” he has accumulated due to his frequent associations with the tavern, by wearing a “garment full of blood” and acquiring all of Hotspur’s “glorious deeds” after defeating him in battle. Hal’s words and intentions are an emblematic portrayal of the natural tension between his behaviour and the kingly role that he is to assume. He is thrust into the eventual situation where he must assume his “princely privilege” – the Battle of Shrewsbury. Seeing Hal accompany his father to the battlefield, Vernon paints a dazzling picture of Hal riding to battle, “glittering in gold coasts” and “gallantly armed”. We see Hal as a “fiery Pegasus” ordained from the divinity of the royal blood. As an audience we cannot deny the charm of his nobility, as we witness him depart from his previous life of “such barren pleasures” to the prince who “England did never owe so sweet a hope”.  Moreover, his desire to challenge Hotspur for his glory and honour highlights the fact that Hal wants to prove his royal character through heroic actions, simply because he views nobility as something that is acquired through one’s valiant intentions, rather than something that is bequeathed through blood inheritance. He swears to Henry that after he defeats Hotspur he would finally “be bold to tell [him] that [he is Henry’s] son”. Furthermore, we are made aware of his changed attitude towards Falstaff in the battle, as he visibly expresses contempt towards Falstaff’s cowardice, angrily throwing his bottle of sack at him. While he has maintained a strong amity with Falstaff at the tavern, he cannot further tolerate Falstaff’s excessively dishonourable behaviour, exclaiming that it is not the “time to jest and dally”. Such behaviour earns Hal the respect of Henry, who, instead of referring to Hal as his “nearest and dearest enemy”, affectionately calls him “Son Harry”. The entirety of Acts IV and V demonstrate Hal’s inevitable development from a royal icon of bad behaviour to his valiant self. Had the chance to prove his honour during war never arisen, Hal would likely not have had the opportunity to develop the emotional maturity and leadership required for a future king.

In essence, Shakespeare asserts that the pursuit of honour allows men to accept the violent hardships of war, and that one must sacrifice their personal lives in order to continue maintain it. Yet, the notion of honour is denounced by Falstaff as nothing more than a political device which ultimately deprives men of their benevolent sentiments. Moreover, Shakespeare demonstrates one’s obsessive naivety with honour will make them especially susceptible to human deceit, a lethal flaw which eventually results in Hotspur’s downfall. It is, however, the desire to prove his honourable kinship which allows Hal to redeem himself from his riotous image – and that it is his actions, which highlights the authenticity of his princely character. Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 thus demonstrates that honour is an ideal which demands heavy personal sacrifices from those who desire it, but that in pursuing it we ultimately cultivate heroic qualities such as valour and fortitude.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 10:05:34 pm by Shenz0r »
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Re: Henry IV Part 1 Essay 2
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2012, 11:13:28 pm »
Comments attached.

Cut out all instances of tautology. Replace cluttered sentences with concise ones. If necessary, delete examples and make paragraphs less bulky.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 11:15:15 pm by brightsky »
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Re: Henry IV Part 1 Essay 2
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2012, 01:44:54 pm »
As brightsky said, don't overuse the conjunctions 'thus' or 'in the same vein'

But given H4P1's close association with blood throughout the battles and also in terms of bloodlines, I quite like the latter
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